Glass used to be relatively expensive, and homes with abundant windows signaled wealth. While perhaps not for period architecture purists, it’s extremely sensible to replace wooden sash single-pane windows with quality layered glass vinyl-framed replacement windows.
They’re called replacement windows because in a typical upgrade, a slightly smaller high-tech window is tightly sealed into the existing hole. The air leakage around the new window is much reduced by modern sash construction and weather-proofing. These windows may reduce overall heating and cooling costs by as much as 25 percent, markedly reducing your home’s carbon footprint. Also, vinyl frames do not require painting. Most American manufacturers employ reasonably earth-friendly production methods.
Replacing windows is a quick and easy improvement, often taking just a day or two. It’s also an economically prudent renovation, as everyone wants shiny, thermally efficient windows. Luxury individualistic improvements, such as a deck or a granite kitchen countertop, are less likely to be recouped in a sale.
Don’t do it yourself. Accurate measurement is essential. Buy from a dealer who will handle the entire process. It’s not actually necessary to buy famous-brand windows such as Pella or Andersen, although they make great products, because the industry is so competitive today. There are little-known smaller manufacturers producing admirable lower-cost knockoffs.
Budget-minded, but value savvy, Hudson Valley residents will probably want to buy dual-pane low-E coated glass windows filled with argon, a dense invisible gas. Prices increase if the glass layers are filled with krypton, among other higher-end technical features. A low-E coating is a nearly invisible metallic layer beneficial in hot and cold weather. The insulation rating for windows is called U-factor, and a lower number is better. Look for a U-factor of .30 or less, since Energy Star criteria will be tightened by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013.
If you are considering vinyl replacement windows, check out the nonprofit National Fenestration Rating Council website (Nfrc.org), a great source of general information.
Other pointers: once you have figured out roughly how many windows you intend to replace, shop around via the telephone. Next, have your windows measured for an estimate, usually good for 30 days. If you negotiate with a local business instead of a national chain, they may sweeten the deal with product upgrades or other incentives if you sit on the estimate a week or two before committing.